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Islanders lose out in exile court ruling fight.

More than 5,000 Indian Ocean islanders have lost the latest round of their High Court action over their 'unlawful' exile from their paradise home.

Mr Justice Ouseley, in London, yesterday ruled that there were no reasonable grounds for bringing the claim and it had no real prospect of success.

He awarded summary judgment to the Attorney General, on behalf of the Government and Her Majesty's British Indian Ocean Territory Commissioner.

The case followed a ruling in November 2000 when two judges said that there was 'no source of lawful authority' to justify the way that the inhabitants of the Chagos Islands had been moved to Mauritius and the Seychelles in the l960s and 1970s.

They quashed the 1971 Immigration Ordinance enacted to give legal authority to the scheme -which cleared the way for construction of the US military base on Diego Garcia.

The current action on behalf of surviving Chagossians or their dependants was aimed at recovering compensation, restitution of property and declarations relating to the entitlement to return to the islands.

Counsel Robin Allen QC said during the hearing that the displaced islanders were 'totally destitute' as they had no skills beyond those in relation to coconuts and Mauritius had no coconut industry and 20 per cent unemployment.

The judge said there was no prospect of the islanders showing that the defendants enacted the Ordinance knowing or being reckless that it was unlawful, or that any removal or prevention of return whether before or after 1973 was unlawful.

The claim of unlawful exile as a legal wrong was not arguable, he ruled.

The judge ordered the claimants, who were legally aided, to pay one-third of the defence costs on a higher indemnity basis.

He gave lawyers for the islanders, who have said that they intend to appeal, four months to formulate their arguments in support of an application for permission to proceed.

Richard Gifford, solicitor for the islanders, said that despite their shock at the decision they had vowed to carry on their fight for justice.

He added: 'It is certainly not the end of the road.'
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 10, 2003
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